Policy Brief

Sensible Policies for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Los Angeles

edical marijuana dispensaries serve a critical purpose in the city of Los Angeles, providing a reliable means for qualified medical patients to obtain medical marijuana in accordance with California law. Dispensary regulation also creates a mechanism for local government oversight of medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. Though many aspects of medical marijuana dispensary regulation are the responsibility of the state government, zoning decisions and conditional use permitting processes governing the operation of the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries are the purview of the City Council.

The Los Angeles Police Department recently issued recommendations to the City Council for a list of restrictions to be imposed on all existing and future medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. These recommendations serve as a useful reference point for some of the issues facing the City Council in its determination of appropriate guidelines for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries; however, they do not reflect an entirely accurate understanding of California’s medical marijuana laws.


Skaidra Smith-Heisters is a policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Her research is part of Reason's New Environmentalism program, launched by Lynn Scarlett, which develops innovative solutions to environmental problems and emphasizes the benefits of local decisions over Washington's command-and-control regulations.

Smith-Heisters is a graduate of the University of California at Davis program in Nature and Culture. Prior to joining Reason, she worked in habitat restoration, endangered species management and natural resources planning with the California State Parks system.

She has been extensively involved in grassroots journalism and political organizing in San Francisco's North Bay area, where she currently lives.